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Clarence Street Mill - Rescued Plan of Offices, 1896

Milling in Hull: Part one “Fine Buildings Combined With Up-to-date Machinery”

Milling journals of the past at The Mills Archive by Mildred Cookson, The Mills Archive, UK In February this year, the Mills Archive rescued several hundred files from the basement of the Hull architect practice of Gelder and Kitchen. More than 600 files on roller flourmills, along with thousands of others on civic, domestic and industrial buildings were threatened with imminent destruction. The roller flourmill files each contain many architectural drawings outlining new mills or modifications to existing mills covering the UK throughout the 20th century. Sir Alfred Gelder did a great deal of work for his friend and fellow Methodist, Joseph Rank. Much of what we salvaged relates to Rank flour mills, with the earliest, dating from 1890, concerning his Clarence Mills in Hull. In due course we will tell the full story on the Mills Archive website ( but I thought it appropriate to write a short series about Rank’s flour mills and the picture of milling in Hull at the start of the 20th century. Much of the information comes from my own files and from two articles in ‘Milling’ in June 1904. Hull, formally known as Kingston-upon-Hull, is on the River Hull as it enters the Humber estuary. Development of port facilities in the nineteenth century on the River Hull had a major impact on milling companies: in 1837 the inward tonnage of grain was only 360,000 whereas by 1903 it had increased to 4,112,614 tonnes. This ten-fold increase was due to the opening of the Alexandra Dock, which was regarded as the finest dock at that time on the East Coast. The importance of this milling centre increased when the Hull and Barnsley Railway and Dock Co revolutionised the history of the grain trade of Hull by collecting flour free of charge from the mills, in contrast to rival railway companies who continued charging. In 1822 Hull had around thirty millers named and by 1904 none of these survived in the production of flour, but it is interesting to note that since 1884, when roller mills came into their own, the list is extensive. The Rank name was by then standing out. In the 1860s and 70s James Rank was at Stepney Mills, and in 1875 Joseph Rank had taken over Mr Waddingham’s mill in Holderness Road. In 1879 James Rank died and Joseph Rank 12 | July 2017 - Milling and Grain

took over Stepney mills; he had by then also taken occupancy of West’s Mill on the Holderness Road. The first roller flourmill erected in Hull was Groves Mills, but Joseph Rank was soon to follow. In 1888 he built a steel-roller plant on the banks of the River Hull, with capacity of 20 sacks per hour but with room to expand to 60, as well as the first discharging elevator in the country and a silo of 20,000 quarters capacity. The great Clarence Mills of Messrs Joseph Rank were built in 1891 and had the distinction of being the largest on the East Coast. They were situated in the centre of the city on the East bank of the River Hull close by to a swing bridge, about half a mile from where the river enters the Humber. Mills A and B were situated side by side to the left of the sprinkler tower in the illustration. They were to the right of the office building on the corner and occupied the whole of the four floors, with the A and B warehouses on their right. Six line shafts in the basement drove the smooth roller mills on the first floor, which were arranged in six lines and comprised 50 double Simon mills, most of them being 40 inches x 10, the remainder being 32 inches x 10. On the second floor were two lines of Simon Double “Reform” dustless purifiers with ten in each line. At the time of the 1904 article changes were in hand on the third floor. When finished more than half of this room would be devoted to rollers with six lines of Simon break mills, 40 inches x 10 and two lines of Simon’s “Reform” dustless double purifiers, 10 in all. On the top floor two lines of centrifugals, 108 in total were arranged in tiers, three high, and all three-sheet Simon machines. This uniformity looked very sensible, making the individual floors look smart. The most remarkable feature about both the plants was the placement of the break mills on the third floor. There were four breaks with the scalping being done on reels and centrifugals. The cleaning house for both plants contained five rotary separators and graders, a large complement of cylinders, three milling separators, three “Eureka” scourers, three Simon washers, five Simon whizzers, three columns of dryers and four “Victor” brush machines. The cleaning capacity was 90 quarters per hour. The imposing central building on the corner provided office and accommodation on the first two floors while the floors above were for sacked good and general stores. As can be seen from the rescued Gelder and Kitchen drawings, the facade was

JUL 2017 - Milling and Grain magazine  
JUL 2017 - Milling and Grain magazine